HARTFORD -- On Friday, one woman broke barriers and made history.
Denia Perez, 28, is the first DACA recipient to be admitted to the Connecticut Bar. With a strike of gavel and an oath in front of several judges, Perez is now a lawyer.
“I was like ‘Whoa - is this mine? Is my name spelled correctly? Is this for me?’” said Perez.
This moment does not tell half of Denia’s fight to get here.
Denia is a DACA recipient, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The federal program protects young immigrants from deportation, those who were brought to U.S. when they were children.
Denia was born in Mexico and came to the states when she was only 11 months.
“When I came and visited I knew was going to be good if we stayed here and give her the opportunity that I didn’t have because I didn’t go to school,” said Genoveva Noriega, Denia’s mother.
Her mother dreamed of her pursuing an education and Denia did but that was met with many challenges because of her legal status. One of those barriers was found here in Connecticut, when she was studying at Quinnipiac University School of Law.
Just months ago, Connecticut limited only U.S. citizens and permanent residents to practice law.
“There were many points where things got hard and I wasn’t sure if I was able to go and continue, “ said Perez.
With the support of Quinnipiac professors, she challenged the law and testified before a group of judges to help change the amendment that limits bar accessibility.
“Right now it’s really hard to be an immigrant especially an undocumented immigrant especially with all the hateful messages, but small things like this really help us maintain hope. I’m really proud of Connecticut for taking this step and opening its doors to people like me,” said Perez.
Perez will wrap up a fellowship in New York and will plans on continuing practicing immigration law.